When I looked into a super-telephoto zoom lens for the Micro Four Thirds system to go on my Olympus OMD-EM5, I came across the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II that has focal range equivalent to 150mm-600mm. To my surprise two of the reviews spoke so poorly of it highlighting its average optical quality, slow focus, missed images, softness, and of course the slow aperture speed. Not everyone had this opinion but so strong were the words I had to find out for myself. So I borrowed the lens and it has been on my camera constantly for the past week.
So what did I get up to and were the critics correct?
First of all I am far from a technical reviewer and I just tell it how I feel it. Taking pictures, sharing, processing and printing is what it is all about. If it spells fun and captures some good moments I am happy. No scientific jargon at all. Just fun.
So my first outing was at an A – League Football (Soccer) Match (Newcastle Jets v Melbourne Victory) to shoot some sports. The big lens was so much fun and held its own for my purposes. It did have some limitations as this was an afternoon / night match and I found myself cranking up the ISO to freeze the movement but for my taste I find that the E-M5 has really good ISO performance at least up to 3200 so it is not that huge of a deal (samples below).
What I found is the fact that it is indeed slow when it comes to aperture. However, you know this from the start as it has a variable aperture of 4.8 – 6.7 which is slow, I mean very slow when you come from the world of fast primes such as the 75mm 1.8.
The lens has no image stabilization of which you need for this focal range. Therefore, it is built for the amazing Olympus Image stabilization inside of the OM-D E-M5 and E-M1. What I found funny or disturbing is that the two negative reviews mentioned previously were both done on Panasonic bodies with no image stabilization. Having used this lens I feel their statements are such an injustice.
I slowed the pace down and went for a stroll in Blackbutt Reserve hoping to capture some Koala’s or wallabies. However, Koala’s were a sleep and wallabies were a no show. However, there were plenty of birds to keep me entertained. Again I found the lens slow as I was in a forest and had no lighting available. However, I had a tripod in hand and was able to capture some pretty good shots by slowing down the shutter. I was surprised at the quality of the smooth bokeh.
I must confess that I never really wanted one of these super telephoto lenses as I generally like capturing the interaction and lives of people up close and personal. Additionally, Super-telephoto zoom lenses are typically large, heavy, cumbersome and require lugging around a tripod. However, to me this lens did not seem too big and really for what it does is not heavy. It does expand in length upon zoom and gets very long but can be compacted down when your walking about. I have found this lens to be very versatile and can capture images you will never be able to capture with a smaller focal length such as the 25mm or even 75mm for that matter.
I feel many wanted this lens to be a pro quality lens to satisfy the missing gap for those that like that extra focal range. However, to be honest OM-D users have been mostly enthusiasts and hobbyists. Those that capture sports and wild life with fast movement have tended to stick to the high end SLR’s from Nikon and Canon. At $550 (AUD) for a super- telephoto lens this lens is fun, performs faultlessly and is very good value for general use.
I am almost considering that this lens belongs in the bag of every OM-D E-M5 owner.
It is true that Olympus is now targeting the professional market with their release of the E-M1 and 12-40mm/2.8 Pro Lens in late 2013. Olympus is continuing their “PRO” range with faster weather sealed telephoto options. These include the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens scheduled for release late 2014 and the Super-telephoto M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4 prime scheduled for release in 2015. However, I would not expect to pay to much less than $1,200 (AUD) to have one of these in your bag.
The images I have shot so far show me that the IQ is pretty sharp and much sharper than I expected after reading the doom and gloom reports. No it will not be as crisp or be as suited for portraiture or indoor low light sporting such as the 75mm 1.8 prime but for a zoom lens it does a good job. I have had no softness issues, missed shots or any issues really.
This lens on the E-M5 comes into its own in bright light and you can concentrate on getting all the shots you need easily whilst enjoying yourself. I went down for a surf and thought I would capture the guys out at Redhead Beach. The following is hand held in bright sunlight at 300mm demonstrating the brilliance of the OMD stabilization.
Instead of rambling further about this lens, I have said what I needed to say. The poor reviews I have read are not justified in any way shape or form. The lens does what it is designed to do. Granted it’s not a GREAT “wow” lens that I am expecting of the upcoming “PRO” lenses. However, it is versatile and sharp enough for 90% of users. There is some softness at 300mm however this really is not going to ruin your photos. However, if you want great low light shooting, perfect IQ and are shooting in a pro situation, you may want to wait a little bit longer for the release of the “PRO” lenses. Although expect to pay a premium.
My Conclusion of the Olympus OMD E-M5 with the 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II
The critics could not be more wrong. This is great versatile set up and offers great value for money at under $550 (AUD) . Worth adding to my bag and many other E-M5 users.
Feel free to tell me what you think.